I8FA State Finals: Orangeville vs Polo
When you take a look at the NUIC you immediately think about hard nosed football. When 5 more teams made the decision to move to 8-man football to begin play in the 2021 season the immediate thought went to how many of them would be able to compete for the top spot in the state.
It didn't take long for the initial state rankings to come out. River Ridge opened as the highest ranked NUIC team, opening up at number 5. They were immediately followed by defending champion Polo, Aquin, and Milledgeville, with Orangeville coming in at number 10.
The final poll looked more true to what the Northwest part of the state already knew; the NUIC teams would dominate the I8FA. Polo ended the season ranked number 1, followed by Milledgeville, Orangeville, and Aquin. Amboy, who was never mentioned above finished the regular season ranked number 12, and would upset number 4 and number 2 to make a semifinal appearance.
And here we are entering the state finals with two NUIC schools facing off with each other; Polo and Orangeville. These two teams last met in week 1 of the 2018 season, where Polo was down 31-15 with 15 minutes left in the game and made a comeback win possible when Braiden Soltow connected with Tucker Mumford for an 87 yard TD to win 34-31. Mumford would be a critical piece to Polo's state championship run when they transitioned to I8FA in 2019.
When you begin to break these two teams down, there are a lot of similarities. Polo enters the state championship game averaging 53.1 points per game, while allowing 18.2 points per game. On the other side, the Broncos average 48.2 points per game and allow 17.2 points per game.
The Broncos are going to attack with Gunar Lobdell, who has rushed for 2,264 yards and 41 TD's on the season. Carson Rote from his QB position, Blake Folgate, and Brayden Cahoon have all contributed to over 300 yards a piece this season, while combining for 13 TD's. Cahoon also leads the Broncos in receiving with 399 yards and 4 TD's. Rote doesn't pass often, but when he does he has been very accurate with a completion percentage just below 65%, passing for 834 yards and 12 TD's.
Polo combats that with a combo 1-2 punch of Brock Soltow and Avery Grenoble, who have rushed for 1,388 yards and 1,358 yards, respectively. The duo have combined for 46 rushing TD's on the season. Tyler Merdian guides this offense, where he has chipped in with 250 yards rushing and 728 yards passing with 16 total TD's on the season. His leading target is Kahlil Sankey with 254 yards and 5 TD's, while Grenoble has picked up 246 yards and 3 TD's through the air.
On the line, Orangeville is led by Ryan Guy and Jared Stubbe, who double to play on the defensive line alongside Nate Anderson. The Marcos counter with Wayde Reimer, Cooper Blake, Blake Diehl, and Daniel Engel.
When looking at the breakdown of scoring averages, the difference in points scored to allowed favors Polo by just 4 points. When you look at games against playoff opponents, it gets even closer as Polo is still favored, but only by 2 points.
What does this tell us? We should have a great state championship game in Monmouth when kickoff comes Friday night at 7 pm. As with all things, it will depend on who makes the fewest mistakes and who can control the line of scrimmage from the onset.
Polo has probably played the toughest schedule to get to state, but Orangeville was able to get past Milledgeville via Amboy, the only team to beat the Broncos this year. Polo moved past Milford Cissna-Park, the 2018 champion and 2019 runner-up, then annihilated preseason favorite West Central to book their trip to Monmouth. Orangeville cruised past Martinsville, while winning rematches with Hiawatha and Amboy on their trip to Monmouth.
It is hard to pick a favorite in this game, but it must be done. Breaking down all scores, looking at all stats and scoring comparisons with common opponents, I have Polo as the favorite. My projected score is close, as I can definitely see this game going either way.
Polo 38 Orangeville 35
This game will be broadcast on YouTube by Hulett PubliPro LLC. Links will be added to our social media pages later, but you can search them on Twitter and subscribe to their channel. You won't want to miss this all NUIC I8FA state championship game.